Written By Don Prieto in 1967:
"Air Force niner seven one,
this is Lockheed EX-SR7I. Am on a heading of 209% speed approaching
an indicated mach three, altitude 90,000. Over."
This type of lingo is common
everyday conversation for Daryl Greenamyer as he performs his
present duties as test pilot for the new SR71 twin jet now being
built by Lockheed Aircraft in Burbank. Up until recently Daryl
has had as his hobby the sport of air racing. He owns and maintains
two propeller-driven aircraft. One is a Lockheed P-38 twin-engine
second world war fighter plane similar to the ones used successfully
in the Ploesti raid. The other plane is a highly modified Grumman
Bearcat. Sponsored by Smirnoff, it is the fastest prop plane
in the world today. Daryl's aviation background extends back
further than he likes to admit. His first ride came in his dad's
airplane the age of ten. Since that time he has spent untold
hours disturbing the air currents. An eight-year stint in the
Air National Guard exposed Daryl to his first jet, an F86A. Of
these eight years he spent one full year flying the latest F100A
for the Tactical Air Command in Tucson, Arizona. After discharge
Daryl was sent to test pilot school at Edwards Air Force Base
where he underwent checkout procedure for the F104 Starfighter.
He's now attached to the Kelly Johnson Division at Lockheed Aircraft
where he tests the aforementioned SR71.
How Daryl met Dave Zeuschel and
ended up drag racing is another story in itself, but for practicality
and with space limited let it be known that they met at the air
Zeuschel enticed Daryl into making
a trek to Lions Drag Strip with him to view the Andre, Trapp
and Glenn (Zeuschel-engined) AA fueler in action. After the first
pass Daryl was turned on. "I gotta have one of them,"
said he. "Greenwell, mah boy," said Davey in his W.
C. Fields manner, "ya better stick to airplanes. These things
go too faast for you." The wheels in Greenamyer's head were
smoking. He had a plan. Since the airplane was sponsored by Smirnoff
and it took very little to maintain it, why not approach the
company on the idea of a dragster and use some of the plane's
budget to build and maintain it. He then approached Mr. Ralph
Hart, Chairman of the Board for Smirnoff. Using a rendering and
brochure prepaid by Steve' Swaja, Daryl began his sell.
After the presentation, and the
explanation of what a dragster was, Daryl's plans were okayed
with one exception. The sponsorship would have its own budget
and the Bearcat would keep its present status.
Daryl explained the relative
ease with which he achieved the sponsorship: "The man digs
Greenamyer set about the plans
of building the car. Zeuschel was selected as the man for the
motor, naturally, and Roy Fijasted of Speed Products Engineering
contracted the chassis work. Swaja did a finish drawing for Bob
Sorrell to do the body work and the construction began.
Some six weeks passed in the
building stage and Daryl was getting anxious. Tom Larkin let
Daryl take an easy run in the gasser at the Hot Rod meet and
it impressed him. What would the fueler be like? He was then
permitted a pass in the Andre and Trapp car. "Sumptin else!"
For the first time in quite a spell there was a machine that
teetered on the edge of control. Things happened faster than
The new car was now ready, and
a beautiful sight it was. A fresh pearl-white and blue paint
job with mother of pearl inlay in both the nose and tail was
the work of a spray man who goes by the name of Reuben. A big
Z on the chrome Chrysler valve cover signified horsepower.
The maiden voyage was set for
the NHRA points meet in Las Vegas. Zeuschel prepped the powerplant
as crewmen made preflight checks on the new car-tightening bolts,
steering arm nuts, verifying tire pressure, chute pack. . . Greenamyer
was ready. A healthy push down the fire-up road brought the big
Chrysler to life. The starting procedure having been overemphasized
by the "experts" Daryl paid most of his attention to
staging and bringing the r's up. He gave it full throttle as
seen in the color action photo and the tires boiled. About three
hundred feel out, the rear end slipped sideways, he lifted, straightened
out and stabbed it again. He cleared the lights at 183 mph.
Darryl Greenamyer's - "Smirnoff" - AA/FD
- Las Vegas, 1967
Photo by Don Prieto
I asked Daryl to give the readers
a comparison between the flying of a fast airplane and driving
a fast car.
He obliged. "There is a
tremendous difference between the two. First of all, I've been
flying all my life and have conditioned reflexes. I know what
to do to correct a situation almost on instinct in the airplane,
but this car is quite different. I'm still way behind what's
happening. The car is much smoother than I thought it would be
and the G forces are far less than, say, in an F-104 on takeoff.
The speed of the machine impressed me though, since the tracks
are much smaller than anything I'm used to, and the light standards
give me a quick reference for speed."
I asked Daryl to tell us in summary
just what was his first impression of a fuel dragster ride.
He replied, "It left me
Pat Foster adds the rest of the story with some little known
To add to Prieto's comments about
the Smirnoff, Sorrell deal, Sorrell was an odd sort, very talented
but odd. The car went to him for the body and it took too long,
the delays caused by who knows, so Zuech, Daryl, Roy were justifiably
upset during the ordeal but the work spoke for it's self. In
the course of the body fabrication Bob (Sorrell) decided the
roll bar was too high and at the wrong angle for how he felt
the body should appear. Race cars are a strange breed when it
comes to form and function. Car builders, as a rule think and
cater to function and also as a rule the body masters will tend
to put form ahead of function. Sorrell took that at least one
step too far when without informing any of the principals of
his decision, he cut off the entire cage, built the rear half
of the body, never reattached the cage in anyway and told them
to come get er' - it's it's a wrap. Roy went insane, blamed Zuech
as much as Sorrell, Zuech shrugged and said we'll get a smaller
driver. and Daryl (who was small) thought she looked bitchin
and finished it the way she sat!
'Z' had asked me to do the testing
but I no longer fit in the car, so they hired Larry Dixon Sr.
(which was a squeeze). He hated to drive it... too small and
Daryl never really fit either. I guess Sorrel's multitude of
shop cats really liked the cut off cage! <G> (those who
hung at Sorrell's will totally understand that last statement!).
This is the first known photo
of the Smirnoff after its maden outing in Vegas. Larry Dixon
in the seat durning the 1967 March Meet.
Daryl Greenamyer -"Smirnoff"
- AA/FD - Irwindale, 1967
Tom West Photo
Dave Zeuschel tweaking the barrel
valve at OCIR in 1967. This was one of the first outings for
Larry Dixon - "Smirnoff"
- PDA Race at Lions, 1967
In 1967, at the first PDA race
at Lions, Smirnoff proved that it wasn't just another pretty
face. It was one of 90 plus fuelers trying to make the 64 car
qualifying field. And driven by Larry Dixon Sr., it tied for
low E.T. of the meet. This was its first major event.
Photo from Steve Gibbs
From the tower at OCIR
Larry Dixon during an
afternoon qualifying session at OCIR in 1967.
During media session
at OCIR in 1967.
- AA/FD - Puyallup, Washington in 1967.
Photo from Tom Willford
"Smirnoff" AA/FD sits
in the pits at the US Nationals (Indy) on its only trip East
in 1967. David Ray Photo
Don Prudhomme, Don Garlits, Dave
Zeuschel and Darrell Greenamyer with the Smirnoff car in the
pits at Indy during the 1967 US Nationals.
Dixon going head to head
with James Warren.
Don Prieto Photos
Some nice shots by Paul Hutchins
of the car in the pits at Beeline Dragway in Phoenix, AZ. during
the 1968 AHRA Winternationals. Here is the late Dave Zeuschel
tending to the potent 392 hemi power plant.
high-lighting the cars magnificent tail section.
Daryl Greenamyer qualified The Smirnoff with a 7.76. Took out
John Wiebe in the 1st round with 216, 7.43. Won 2nd round over
Norm Weekly in "The Beachcombers" with a 7.24 at 216.
Lost to Chuck Kurzawa in "The Ramchargers" in the 3rd
round with a 7.32 at 222 to Kurzawa's 7.11 at 223.
This shot vividly
shows just how "swoopy" the body lines/cockpit/tail
were (are) on this beauty.
These three shots were
taken during the 1968 NHRA Winternationals.
by Bob Wagner
the tire pressure on his Smirnoff car at the 1968 Winternationals.
Dave Zeuschel sits on the push car behind Daryl.
Greenamyer smokes the
tires at the hit - 1968 NHRA Winternationals.
Hot Rod Magazine
Staging lanes of the
1968 NHRA Winternationals.
Wayne Franks photo
Pits at Lions Drag Strip
1968 March Meet
Roy Fijasted was so proud of
the Smirnoff car he used it on the cover of his 1968 Speed Products
At the end of the 1968 season
Greenamyer repainted the car (the pearl white had yellowed) and
ran it two more times. At Lions (above) and at the 1969 NHRA
Following the Winternationals
he pulled the engine out of the car (sold it to a drag boat racer),
and touching nothing else literally parked it in a bunker in
the Mojave Desert where it would remain for 37 years. The three
shots above are the only photo we've found of the car with the
blue and white paint scheme it was retired with.
With many knowing
the Smirnoff car was still in tact, it was no secret that Greenamyer
still had one of the most coveted pieces on the planet for those
who restore history... not to mention cacklecars. Over the years
several people tried to either get Daryl to restore it himself
or sell it to someone who would. Until late summer of 2006 nobody
had the "Right Stuff" to get Daryl to let the car go...
until Joe Passalaqua somehow convinced him to sell the car (undisclosed
amount) with the promise that it would be lovingly restored and
actively displayed (i.e. a running cacklecar).
prefers to play a low key role in the car, enlisted cacklecar
vets Bill Pitts and Rick MacDonald (MagiCar) to pick the car
up and sort out what was there and determine what needed to be
done to restore the car to its original beauty.
Our story starts
with Pitts and MacDonald picking up the car in September of 2006
and taking it to Carlsbad, CA.
Here's a real thing of beauty
to some. Bill and Rick were about ready to leave the place where
they picked up the car. Daryl said they could look around for
anything more that was connected with the car. So they just started
digging through what Pitts called "allot of stuff"
and wayyy in the corner, on a bottom shelf, was this. It's the
original clutch and flywheel set up for the car. It looked brand
new, just 35 years old. They almost missed it.
MacDonald of "Pro Air"
examines the car after they backed it into Passalaqua's garage.
Rick was given the honor of building a fresh bullet for the car
and handling all the mechanical details concerning its operation.
Over the course of the restoration Joe will work with a host
of other folks to bring back the car's true beauty. It's one-event
paint job would be replaced with the original pearl white and
candy blue Smirnoff scheme.
Here's a pretty good
shot of the very unique Sorrell tail section.
As stated earlier, the car (less
engine) went literally untouched for 37 years. The chute folded
in the seat from its last run. Here you can see the beautiful
blue frame, the M/T mag rear end. The beautiful "Surfer
Bob" wood butterfly steering wheel. The original parachute
that was still just thrown in to the seat and left there. Cob
webs and dust are everywhere. Also here you can see the
beautiful Tony Nancy upholstery that is in real fine shape. All
the nuts and bolts from when they pulled the engine were still
laying in the seat.
Rick, carefully examining the
mid-section of the car. It has some really nice "fine touches"
that Roy Fijasted added. Note the steering link that proceeds
to the mid-point of the frame and then moves inside the nose.
Joe Passalaqua, the car's new
owner, with the original set up used by the team to fuel up the
car. That stand has a filtered funnel at the top of it. The hose
from the funnel, has a quick fit coupling on it that connects
to the custom fuel tank that Joe is holding in his hand. The
connection was made to the bottom/rear of the fuel tank and when
it was full, nitro would flow out the overflow at the top/front
of the tank. Must have been an aviator thing.
Here is a close up of just one
corner of the cowl. You can see the level of dust that had built
up on the car. Very cool decals, abound.
With the 2006 California Hot
Rod Reunion less than a month away from the time they got the
car, it was decided that it would be a cool thing to take the
car to Bakersfield so people could see it exactly how it was
found - nothing cleaned - nothing changed. So, into Gary and
Jayne Fenstermaker's trailer it went.
John Weidler and Rick
load the car in the trailer for Gary to secure.
In The Grove at Famoso Raceway
the Smirnoff car sat all weekend for all to see. Dirt, dust,
cobwebs and even a spider nest molesting the beauty beneath.
One could suspect had it been a one-time movie star abandoned
by the ages it would have been quite embarrassed by its current
However, for those who know -
it was still beautiful - dust and all. It would leave here and
begin its rehabilitation. The world of drag racing would just
have to wait for its return to glory at the 2007 CHRR.
After Bakersfield the car was
taken back to Passalaqua's garage and dismantled. The first thing
on the agenda was the body. The chassis would follow.
With the body removed the original
SPE SEMA stamp was visible. This is what we call an iron clad
Dirty but straight.
Trick tail supports and
Surprisingly these were under
the tail section. Not exactly where the sponsors would like them.
All body panels were stripped
and sent to a metal man who took care of the cracks and other
damage that occurred during Smirnoff's active racing life. A
touch of body filler need to be used to add strength to a thin
spot on the nose.
The upper tail just needed some
minor repair work in various locations, especially the back edges.
Here's Joe showing the bottom
of the tail section. This area had seen its share of damage from
wheel stands. He got her all smoothed out and ready for the next
The repaired tail section.
Sorrell's intricate work is alive and well.
Bell housing and support
parts looking new.
Joe buffed out the custom "Surfer
Bob" (Bob Knight) butterfly steering wheel (see ads below)
and treated the wood to a fresh coat of spar varnish. The "butterfly"
is amazingly thin. The shaft polished up just fine.
The "Surfer Bob" wheel
on the Smirnoff digger is a "Malibu" design. A lot
of Bob's wheels were custom built for each dragster that he did.
His trademark, on most of the wheels, was a surfer riding a wave
on the centerpiece. Knight made custom wheels for many of our
1/4 mile hero's. Some of the names he mentioned to me were Beebe
& Mulligan, Surfers II, Prudhomme, Jesse Perkin's Cow Palace
Shell, Muldowney, Billy Meyer, Herm Petersen and who knows who
Since the chassis needed no repairs
it was sandblasted and powder coated. The other parts went sent
out for re-chroming or anodizing.
As for the body paint, Joe was
more than capable of doing that himself. Here it is in progress.
Note there are no signs of dust and spiders anymore.
After the base white was done,
using magazine photos and rulers Passalaqua figured the exact
positioning and design of the original blue trim.
Joe marking off the pattern
for paint on the nose.
The engine parts are
In 1967, a guy with the first
name of Ruben was hired to paint the pearl paint job on Darrell
Greenamyer's "Smirnoff Special". The car was pretty
alright, but the beautiful trim work -- the stripes, the lettering,
the ornate pin stripping, wasn't done by Ruben -- although he
was the one that got credit for it all. The man that did all
the ornate work was a guy by the name of Ted Miller out of Chula
Vista, California. Ted worked with Robert Martinez on cars like
"Poison Ivy", Bill Leavitt's "Quickie Two"
and Joe Shubeck's Lakewood Chassis car with the rear suspension.
Ted was a very talented guy.
Some of you might remember, in
about 1965, the Drag News panel Truck. It was painted kind of
a fluorescent green and red with "Drag News" on the
side. Well, that was Ted's truck. Anyway Ted gradually faded
from the drag racing scene, probably because his talents weren't
needed after a while. The picture above is him working on Smirnoff
in 1967. Ted did work with Tom Morris, and when Ted saw that
Tom was fooling around with the old fuelers (namely the MagiCar),
he asked him if he ever found any pictures of Smirnoff, he'd
like to get some. Ted considered Smirnoff to be one of his favorite
projects. Well, when we really started getting down to the short
strokes (on Smirnoff) after the pearl paint was applied by Joe
Passalaqua, and we were getting really nervous about having to
take a stab at getting the ornate aspects of the paint job just
right, up comes Mr. Morris with the connect to Ted Miller and
we hoped Ted was still around to help us out. The bottom line
is after 40 years of separation, the artist and the car were
reunited at Joe's house in Escondido, California.
Here's Ted forty years later,
ready to work his magic again and now he will get the credit
As a side note, the swirly paint job on the top surfaces of the
body? Not "tape fade" or anything done with a brush......it's
drum wrap! THE STUFF YOU WRAP DRUMS WITH!
Joe immediately used the internet to make contact with the biggest
manufacturer of drum wrap in the nation. He talked to a lady
that had been working there forever. He showed her a picture
of the drum wrap on the car in 1967 and she remembered, that
style of drum wrap. It went out of production in the late 60's.
The psychedelic era. BUT SHE HAD TWO ROLLS LEFT ON A DUST COVERED
BACK SHELF!! Joe bought them both, but the latest information
is that they aren't quite right, but if anybody can find the
right stuff, it'll be Joe. And with the help of Ted, they'll
get the magic back.
Ted Miller's first day back with
Smirnoff. Keep in mind that he not only hadn't seen Smirnoff
in 40 years, but he didn't even have any pictures of the car.
So here he is walking in to a garage with the car as it was when
he was called in to "go off on it" in 1967. This was
pretty intense for Ted and his daughter Teddy. Here's Dad recalling
and daughter learning about yet another amazing piece that her
Ted carefully looked over all
that Joe Passalaqua (the owner and painter) has on the car in
terms of pictures.
Joe going over the paints he's
using on the car to make sure that Ted is o.k. with every move
he makes. Joe's very much going the distance when it comes to
making this car perfect. It was at this point that Joe asked
Ted about the infamous moniker that lies right in the middle
of the nose section of the car. Every picture that Joe has helps
him see the ornate work that Ted did -- everything BUT the moniker.
The shots are just too far away to be able to see any real detail
of it. So it was the only real question mark left on the project.
Ted kind of leaned back trying to recall anything about the moniker
and really didn't think he'd done one on this car. The photos
just weren't close enough to make out anything of the ball of
black ink in the middle of the nose. He was stymied!
Since Ted was stuck on that one,
Joe moved him outside and shows him the white pearl in the sunlight
so that he can see the gold shine through and also lets him decide
on which of the two blues is best for the strips. But, the moniker
was still on Ted's mind and he mentioned that there was a moniker
that he did only a couple of times that was just his. He mentions
that it had the word "king" in it. But that's all he
Joe whipped out the Smirnoff
bottle he got on the internet. It's exactly like the one that
was on the cowl. It's hard to see it in the shot that Ted is
holding, but it's there. There's some interesting stories about
that, as there is about everything that has to do with this car.
Ted, with brush in hand,
next to what he worked on 40 years ago.
Mixed in with all the photos
of the articles on Smirnoff was this one that showed the ever-so-slightest
detail on the moniker. It's actually a shot to show the very
front of the car, but off to the side, at an angle is the moniker
right on the top/middle of the nose. And, it's at this point
that Ted started grabbing up a recollection of the moniker and
started to remember what it looked like.
Joe went and got one of the newly
polished American "Daisy" wheels and let Ted see it
and it is at that point that Ted picked up a Sharpie and brought
back the missing piece. Using the end of the saw horse as his
canvas, Ted pulled from the past the moniker they needed! It
is of a king holding a paint brush with the work KING underneath
it. It was his rarely use signature moniker! The original artist,
living only 45 miles away, was almost missed.
06-04-07: We sadly report that
Ted Miller will never have the chance to realize his dream of
once again plying his artistry to the Smirnoff car as he passed
away today from a long suffering illness. His craftsman ship
and love of drag racing will be his legacy and he will be greatly
06-25-07: The Smirnoff Project
is once again gathering steam, after the terrible new of Ted
Miller's passing. Joe Passalaqua, eases in on the blue strips
that once accented this beautiful car. Thin tape at first to
try and get things as correct as possible then thicker tape once
everything looks smooth.
"A little to the left...."
Rick MacDonald, of Pro Air, helps Joe get it right, as others
hover at the nose.
Up at the nose, John Weidler,
Rick's co-worker, and our own Jay Carpenter (looking away) give
each line the once over. "Get over here, kid! You messed
up! Just look at this...." Joe asked for it and the boys
don't hold back! The car is loving it. Joe's ears are burning.
Time for a "photo op".
(Left to Right) Joe Passalaqua, Rick MacDonald, Jay (Poison Ivy/The
Syndicate) Carpenter, and John Weidler. These guys are enjoying
every minute of this.
Then it's time for the full wrap
and the blue strips are sprayed on. Joe's garage is turned in
to a make shift spray booth.
With the Chrysler rear end housing
and axles in place, Smirnoff waits for more. A fresh set of M&H
meats will keep her up on her haunches. What lies just below
the dust of 40 years, smacks of brilliance. A thoroughbred that
tied for low e.t. at the first 64 car PDA race at Lions in 1967.
Speed and beauty shining in the sun. This "rebuild ride"
is a roller coaster of hopes and dreams, from years ago, that
we can now reach out and touch. It's positively riveting!
Joe and John move to
the front and begin to tie it all together.
New meats, Daisy Americans, and
the front end up. Then-- deep in "the cave", Chubasco
Out from under wraps comes the
Frankenstein topped short block. The 6 quart cackle pan lost
its leading edge in order to give her more ground clearance.
With this low rider, every little bit will help.
Rick rolls #1 up to top
dead center. The mic tells the tale, as the flat top's milled
surface, stars the light.
Elsewhere on the grounds,
a spare 392 awaits its turn on the stand.
08-02-07: Time for the lettering.
Here's Bob Thompson handling the lettering and gold leaf phase
of the project. Bob is the nicest man in the world. And is one
skilled letterer to boot. As you'll be able to see, the old girl
is starting to look like her young self again.
The gold leaf used for the car
had to be acquired from back east. It's special stuff and not
your average leaf. The CT Stroker decal being recreated as it
was 40 years ago, by the late Ted Miller. Milodon and a bow tie
for the Champion Spark Plug decal is seen here.
Engle Cams and the gold
ball will have the SE of Sorrell Engineering.
Now for some depth. Ted was really
good with get depth in his lettering. If you've ever seen Joe
Shubeck's red '65 fueler, you'll know what I mean. Bob's doing
a great job of bringing it back.
No---he didn't miss a
spot on the bottom of that bell. The Pennzoil bell has a crack
Some of the last writings of
the late Ted Miller can be seen here. While he was recalling
what the moniker looked like, he wrote down a list of the fuelers
he'd lettered. They are:
Jerry Baltes' "Yellow Bird"
Tommy Ivo's 4 Engine Buick Dragster
"Yellow Fang" Bushmaster
"Gentleman Joe" Shubeck's fueler '65
Cope Brothers "Red Dog"
Warren & Coburn '65 Fueler
Bill Levitt's "Quickie Two"
Jocko's Speed Liner (?) Hard to read.
"Clear Spark" Special
Sid Waterman's "Swinger II"
Bob William's Fueler
and a few more.
Now this is just off of this paper. Some of them we're not sure
about, but most of them we are. He left his mark.
On the other side of the paper,
you can see what he recalled about the Moniker. These notes were
put down only a few days before he died. RIP Ted Miller.
Back to the car. Here's the frame
fresh from the powder coaters. R.J. Little in San Diego did a
bang up job. The frame is almost too pretty to cover up.
Joe stuck the nose on the frame
and you can see what we're in for when she finally get's assembled
for good. Long, low, and lean. This beauty will be quite a sight
to see. It's just too bad she couldn't have made the Bixby Knolls
event, for she tied for low e.t. at the very first PDA race,
40 years ago.
The incredible Air Brush work
on the car was done by Mikhi. She Air Brushed the back ground
colors and the realistic Smirnoff bottle. See more of her work
It leaves you breathless!
After its extensive
restoration, the Smirnoff car made its official debut at the
2007 California Hot Rod Reunion.
At the 2007 CHRR one car that
had no shortage of attention was the Smirnoff AA/FD owned and
restored by Joe Passelaqua.
John Weidler who was of great
help to Joe in the restoration process was in the car for the
pre-Cacklefest Parade. Unfortunately Passalaqua must have put
too much vodka in the tank as the engine seized the exhaust valve
guides (bending 7 valves) on a Friday fireup and they were unable
to fix it for Cacklefest but graced the fans with an appearance
for the parade. New car woes won't stop this baby next time out.